Sukkot Celebration and JCS Classes

Our Jewish Cultural School  met on Sunday, October 4, 2020.  Each  covered a range of topics with engaging activities developed by our excellent teachers.  We concluded with a celebration of Sukkot – all on Zoom!

The Sukkot celebration offered a condensed (befitting both the Zoom format and the attention span of our younger JCS students) service led by Eva Cohen who, in addition to being our B’Mitzvah group’s teacher, is Or Emet’s rabbinic candidate and ritual leader.  That was followed with two songs for Sukkot led by Or Emet’s vocal music leader, Sarah Berman Young.

We concluded with an  Build an Instant Sukkah contest.  Participants were challenged to build a sukkah in three minutes, using materials found around the house.  It needed at least 3 walls, a roof that let light through, and be large enough for “someone” to fit inside.  Those “someones” included babies, Lego people, pets, and the child builders themselves.  Among the building materials were sofa cushions, cardboard boxes, blankets, newspaper, patio chairs and long grasses.  Everyone was a winner!

Instant Sukkah builder Rosie King with her sukkah


The Littles Group, PreK- Kindergarten, teacher Josh Kaplan

This month at JCS we learned about Sukkot! We talked about why we build a sukkah, and why you shake a lulav and etrog. We also read two awesome books about Sukkut. It was great to see all our friends in the Littles class!

Aravit (willow), Lulav (palm branch), Hdassin (myrtle) and Etrog (citron)


Colline Roland

For our class we managed to all stay on Zoom for 1.5 hours, yay!   We started off with Halloween plans And costumes and then moved on to Jewish holidays! We learned about why and what Sukkot is.  Then we read ‘Tamar’s Sukkah’ on Epic! and scored an 80% on the quiz. We also created and decorated our hand drawn and computer drawn Sukkots. We learned the best thing to fill them with is friends (socially distanced of course) and food!

The Juniors Group, Grades 3-5, teacher Renee Dorman
In October the Juniors group learned about the Jewish and Arab nationalist movements from the beginning of the 20th century through WWI, using a historical role play involving European Jews,  Palestinians and British officials.
With Sukkot upon us, we watched a cool video taken at Sukkah City, a gathering of sukkah’s as modern sculptural art held in 2010 at New York City’s Union Square.  Then, after reviewing the purpose and requirements for a sukkah, we each designed our own in the medium of our choice, whether that was drawing, Minecraft, or fort building.
“Fractured Bubble” received the People’s Choice Award
at the Sukkah City Competition (2010)
The B’Mitzvah Group, Grades 6-8, teacher Eva Cohen
This month the B Mitzvah Prep class expanded their knowledge about the Talmud as well as the Jewish holiday calendar. We started out with our regular Hebrew greeting warm-up, and then Leah Chazdon, our teacher’s assistant, led a movement game based on Sukkot vocabulary.
After this opening, students read a quote from the Mishnah that describes “the four new years” in Jewish tradition, and we discussed the timing and significance of these four occasions. Looking closer at how the quote describes a disagreement between “Bet Hillel” and “Bet Shammai” about when the New Year for the Trees happens, we shifted to learning more about Hillel, Shammai, and the famous two-thousand-plus-year-old debates between these two scholars that are recorded in the Talmud and that shape Jewish tradition to this day.  We watched two animated video clips about Hillel and Shammai–one serious and one silly–and students discussed the differences between Shammai’s severity and Hillel’s leniency or flexibility in interpreting Jewish law. Drawing on this knowledge of the two scholars’ differences, and knowing that most Jewish customs came to follow Hillel’s approach, students did an activity where they looked at a series of quotes from the Talmud and guessed which were attributed to Shammai and which to Hillel.
Finally, shifting gears but continuing to focus on the Talmud, we got in the Halloween spirit and learned about creepy Jewish myths and legends that have some roots in the Talmud–including stories about golems, demons, and dybbuks. Then we wrapped up class a little early to join the large-group Or Emet Sukkot celebration.
Painting of a Sukkah, 19th C., Austria – painted on pine

Online! Or Emet Humanistic Passover Seder on April 11

Or Emet Seder Celebrates Passover in the Humanistic Tradition 

UPDATE: Due to the current health crisis, Or Emet’s Passover Seder will be an online event using the Zoom online meeting platform.  Attendees must register in order to attend the meeting. If interested in attending, email

The following in-person event has been cancelled:  On April 11, 2020 from 5:00 – 8:00 pm, Or Emet’s Passover Seder will be held at The First Unitarian Society, 900 Mt. Curve Avenue, Mpls, MN 55403

Or Emet’s Seder celebrates Passover with a Humanistic Jewish service led by Eva Cohen, Rabbinic Candidate and Ritual Leader. We read from a Humanist Haggadah, which includes both the legendary tale of the exodus from Egypt and modern Jewish exodus stories. Children from the Jewish Cultural School, adults and families all share in the festivities.

Or Emet members and visitors are invited to join us for a catered meal of traditional Passover foods, roast turkey, and vegetarian alternatives. Attendees can volunteer to bring beverages and/or desserts to accompany the catered dishes.

Suggested fees for members: children <5 free, children 5-13 years $10, adults $15, family maximum $50.

Suggested fees for non-members: children <5 free, children 5-13 years $15, adults $25,  family maximum $75.

Reservations are open from March 21 – April 3  or until at capacity. Reservations are required and members receive priority. If interested in attending, email or call 612-787-7812 during the reservation period.

We depend on people pitching in to help since this event is planned, organized, and staffed by volunteers. Please sign-up to help with tasks such as welcoming, arranging table place settings, helping with food, and cleanup.

We look forward to celebrating Passover with you!

Warming Up with January JCS

Greetings.  The weather is nippy but we keep ourselves warm, in body and spirit, at our monthly Jewish Cultural School sessions.  Here’s what happened in January.

The Littles Group – PreK – Kindergarten, teacher Josh Kaplan

This week at JCS we learned about mitzvot. We talked about how doing good one good deed can lead to more good deeds, and about all of the different actions that count as a mitzvah. We drew pictures of mitzvot we have done, or could do, and we read a story about helping others.


The Middles Group, grades 1 – 3, teacher Colline Roland

coming soon

The Juniors Group, grades 4-5, teacher Renee Dorman

In January, the Juniors group studied the history of redlining in the Twin Cities. This discriminatory practice effected Jews as well as people of color for much of the 20th century. You can check out the resource we used at the link below.  Here is some of the text from their site describing  a map prepared by the Home Owners Loan :

“As shown on this HOLC map, ‘Hazardous’ red areas were often comprised of people of color, immigrant groups and Jews, and in those places the government dissuaded the underwriting of loans. Yellow areas were also less favorable, deemed ‘Declining’, while blue ‘Desirable’ and especially green ‘Best’ areas became mostly likely to have loans underwritten. HOLC maps were made in most medium and large cities across the United States, and in 1934, like in other cities, this map was commissioned by local public and private officials.”

After discussing this issue, we made our own All Are Welcome Here signs in English and Hebrew to fight against xenophobic attitudes. We also practiced writing in Hebrew, including both vowels and consonants.


The B’Mitzvah Group, grades 6-7, teacher Eva Cohen

Our January lesson focused on thinking critically about biblical law. After our usual Hebrew conversation warm-up and an introduction to how the Torah transitions from the narrative of escape from Egypt to God’s transmission of many laws to Moses on Mount Sinai, students read most of Exodus 20, the first chapter in the Torah that details the commands that later tradition comes to understand as the Ten Commandments. They compared this chapter with a list of the Ten Commandments, marking the Exodus 20 text to show where each commandment was extracted. Then we had a discussion about the differences between the meanings that these ‘commandments’ held for their ancient authors and the meanings that they acquired in later tradition (the second commandment, for example, “You shall have no other gods before me,” assumes that other gods exist but that only one should be worshipped; monotheism–belief in the existence of only one God–developed later on in Judaism). After this discussion, students took part in an activity where they walked to one side of the room or the other depending on whether they thought each commandment should or should not apply broadly to people today. This activity prompted interesting ethical conversation about the importance of not dictating whether people should or should not believe in a specific deity, about whether abusive parents should be honored, and a range of other topics. We took a snack break, and after coming together again as a group, students folded origami versions of the ‘Tablets of the Law,’ decorated them, and then brainstormed and shared their own lists of Humanistic Jewish Ten Commandments. We closed the lesson by looking at some laws from the Code of Hammurabi, an ancient Babylonian law code that clearly influenced later Torah law, even though it was written at least a thousand years before the laws in the Torah. Students noted parallels as well as divergences between selections from Hammurabi’s Code and Leviticus 24:17-22, observing how the Code seems to set up harsher punishments for people who harm members of the aristocracy, while the Leviticus 24 laws make punishment serious and equal for anyone who harms a person of any class from within or outside the community. We will continue to think about these comparisons and contrasts as we expand on our study of biblical law and its ethical implications during our February class.

December JCS & Hanukkah Party!

Greetings, and Happy 2020

Here are summaries from each of our teachers of their December, 2019 Jewish Cultural School lessons.  One week later, our annual Hanukkah Party was held, with photos to bear witness to the great time had by all.

Littles Group, Pre-school – Kindergarten, teacher Josh Kaplan: 

This week was all about Hanukkah! We practiced the song we will sing for our Hanukkah Party, we learned about dreidels, we practiced lighting a play-menorah, we colored and we read our favorite Hanukkah book: Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins. We also welcomed a visitor this week who fit right in with the class!

Middles Group – First – Third Grade, teacher Colline Roland

Today we continued our monthly mitzvah and made Hanukkah cards and Star of David ornaments to give to a senior care facility. We also read a story book and learned all about the story of Hanukkah.

Juniors Group, Grades 4 – 5, teacher Renee Dorman

In December, the Juniors group talked about the issue of underrepresentation of minority groups, and how it applies to Judaism as well as other non-Christian religions. We took a small step toward changing this norm by imagining a Hanukkah celebration into our favorite stories. Students were encouraged to pick whatever story world they wanted, from Minecraft to Percy Jackson and beyond. We pretended to be a character celebrating Hanukkah and wrote a letter about our imagined celebration. Students also had the opportunity to illustrate the scene. We closed the lesson with a few rounds of Hebrew letter bingo.

B’Mitzvah Prep Group, grades 6-7, teacher Eva Cohen

Our December lesson focused on preparing for Chanukah. After our usual Hebrew conversation practice, students spent practiced writing their Hebrew names in block letters and script. Then, after a brief overview of the history of ancient Israel, the class divided up roles and acted out a historically-grounded Chanukah play retelling the story of the Maccabean revolt and the origins of Chanukah as a holiday. Students voted perform this play as their class Chanukah party presentation, reviewed a Chanukah song they sing at Chanukah party with Sarah, and wrote funny arguments to take positions in the great latke-hamantaschen debate. We rounded out the lesson with practice speaking and writing Hebrew (and some Yiddish) holiday vocabulary terms, and then brainstormed issues to make the focus of our tikkun olam letter-writing campaigns to state and federal legislators in early 2020.


2019 Or Emet Hanukkah Party